Physics Major Requirements (B.A.)

(See also Requirements for a Bachelor's Degree.)

The major program is structured so that nearly all students take the same classes during the first two years and must complete the same list of core upper-level courses during their second two years, but permits a variety of choices in upper-level electives. The total number of credits required for the B.A. degree is 120. By the end of the four years our students share an understanding of classical mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical physics and quantum mechanics, and have acquired physics lab skills that will support them in graduate school or in a host of other pursuits.

A grade of C- or higher is required for a course to be counted towards major requirements. This includes required math courses. An exception for a single course taken in the year before graduation may be granted by the Director of Undergraduate Studies under extenuating circumstances.

Core Courses


The standard mathematics requirements for all physics majors consist of:

AS.110.108Calculus I (Physical Sciences & Engineering)4
AS.110.109Calculus II (For Physical Sciences and Engineering)4
or AS.110.113 Honors Single Variable Calculus
AS.110.202Calculus III4
or AS.110.211 Honors Multivariable Calculus
AS.110.302Differential Equations and Applications4
AS.110.201Linear Algebra4
or AS.110.212 Honors Linear Algebra
Total Credits20


The standard physics requirements for all physics majors matriculating on or after September 2020 consist of:

AS.171.105Classical Mechanics I4
AS.173.115Classical Mechanics Laboratory1
AS.171.106Electricity and Magnetism I4
AS.173.116Electricity and Magnetism Laboratory1
AS.171.201Special Relativity/Waves4
AS.172.203Contemporary Physics Seminar1
AS.171.204Classical Mechanics II4
AS.171.312Statistical Physics/Thermodynamics4
AS.171.301Electromagnetic Theory II4
AS.171.303Quantum Mechanics I4
AS.171.304Quantum Mechanics II (or Topics in Modern Physics)4
AS.173.308Advanced Physics Laboratory3
Total Credits38

B.A Additional Requirements

Two Additional Upper Level Physics Courses6
Total Credits6

Note: AS.171.101 General Physics: Physical Science Major I-AS.171.102 General Physics: Physical Science Major IIAS.171.103 General Physics I for Biological Science Majors-AS.171.104 General Physics/Biology Majors II or AS.171.107 General Physics for Physical Sciences Majors (AL)-AS.171.108 General Physics for Physical Science Majors (AL) with their labs is acceptable in place of AS.171.105 Classical Mechanics I-AS.171.106 Electricity and Magnetism IAS.173.115 Classical Mechanics Laboratory-

Sample Program of Study

First Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
 9 9
Second Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
AS.110.202 or 2114AS.110.201 or 2124
 13 12
Third Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
AS.171.3014AS.171.304 (or Topics in Modern Physics)4
Department elective #13-4Department elective #23-4
 11-12 10-11
Fourth Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
Department elective #33-4Additional major elective3-4
 Department elective #43-4
 3-4 6-8
Total Credits 73-78

Honors in the Major

Honors in Physics is granted to graduating students who achieve a GPA of 3.5 or higher in all courses taken to fulfill the major requirements.

Senior Thesis

Any student majoring in the department may write a senior thesis, based on original research conducted under the supervision of a member of the faculty. Arrangements for this research will be made on an individual basis. The department views the writing of a senior thesis as an excellent capstone experience to an undergraduate education in physics, and encourages all students to consider it.